Google Eyes Social Net Role for Gmail

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Google is reportedly on the verge of making Gmail behave more like Facebook and Twitter, with a service allowing users to share status updates, video and photos with friends.

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The move would mirror one made by Yahoo, which lets mail users post status updates. But Google will take advantage of its ownership of YouTube and Picasa, by integrating the video- and photo-sharing services with the Gmail status updates, according to a report Monday in the Wall Street Journal.

"Currently, Gmail has a chat bar that can display a short 'away message' for each user's contacts," WSJ reporter Jessica Vascellaro writes. "But the new interface will have an area that users can click through to see updates from more friends in a stream -- a format popularized by Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., [Google sources] said."

The Journal said the plan to make Gmail more like a social network could be rolled out as soon as this week, but that features such as YouTube and Picasa integration may not be included right away.

Google is clearly trying to steer Web users away from Facebook and Twitter, which are growing tremendously in popularity. People who already use Gmail may find it

Artwork: Chip Taylor
convenient to post status updates and share media on the same site they use for e-mail, but they won't necessarily abandon networks of contacts they have built up on other sites. A person's friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter may be an entirely different group of people than that same person's e-mail contacts, and users will have to decide which group of people they want to share information and content with.

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This story, "Google Eyes Social Net Role for Gmail" was originally published by Network World.

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